Defendant Sentenced for Brokering over 100 Sham Marriages
ATLANTA - Rex Anyanwu has been sentenced to federal prison for arranging fraudulent marriages that allowed illegal aliens to remain in the U.S, alien harboring, obtaining his own citizenship in violation of the law, and conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
“Anyanwu abused the same immigration system that allowed him to become a U.S. citizen,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “His price for defrauding the government is high – not only will he spend a significant amount of time in jail, Anyanwu will also lose his United States citizenship and be deported to his native Nigeria upon completion of his sentence.”
“Providing a legal avenue for the spouses of United States citizens to immigrate to our country is one of the bedrock principles of our immigration system,” said Special Agent in Charge Brock D. Nicholson of Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta. “The defendant exploited that avenue for his own enrichment. The investigation by HSI, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services and the Diplomatic Security Service will ensure that he pays for his crimes and loses something even more precious, his citizenship.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Beginning at least by February 2001 and continuing until his arrest in 2012, Rex Anyanwu ran a fraudulent marriage factory, the product of which was sham marriages designed to deceive immigration. U.S. citizens testified at trial that “Rex” would drive from the Atlanta area to Huntsville, Ala. and lure them into a marriage with a stranger with the promise of quick, easy money. One young woman testified that she recruited for Anyanwu, and was paid to find approximately 50 other U.S. citizens willing to engage in sham marriages, primarily to Africans from Kenya and Nigeria. The U.S. citizens were paid approximately $700 for the marriage; they could earn additional payments of approximately $500 for trips to Atlanta to participate in Citizen and Immigration Services interviews designed to establish that the couple shared their lives and had a valid marriage. Frequently, the “couple” did not even live in the same state, much less together. Anyanwu would coach the U.S. citizen and the alien on how to answer the questions to make it appear that the marriage was real.
Some of the alien spouses testified at trial that they came to “Rex” because they heard he could help them stay in the United States. Anyanwu not only introduced them to the U.S. spouse, but also provided fraudulent documents required by Immigration such as lease agreements, verification of employment, W-2s and 1040 income tax returns. Anyanwu charged an additional fee for the fraudulent documents. The aliens further testified that they paid Anyanwu as much as $10,000 and often met their intended spouse the same day and place they were to marry them. From the number of marriages he arranged, Anyanwu earned at least a million dollars.
Immigration policy provides that a marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreign-born spouse who is a citizen of another country is one path through which an alien can become a U.S. citizen. However, participating in a marriage solely to obtain citizenship is a crime. Evidence at trial showed that Anyanwu filed fraudulent applications for visas on behalf of the aliens who hired him and would forge U.S. citizen names on the paperwork submitted to Immigration.
One alien witness testified that after Anyanwu was under investigation he contacted her and told her that if anyone asked about him, “Say you don’t know me.” Another U.S. citizen witness stated that he was scared of Anyanwu, who threatened that if he did not show up for the Immigration interview Anyanwu would have others hurt him. Anyanwu’s efforts to obstruct the investigation did not succeed, and cost him more time in jail.
Anyanwu, 51, of Lithia Springs, Ga., was found guilty by a jury on November 15, 2013. He was sentenced by United States District Judge Thomas W. Thrash to five years and ten months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and he was ordered to pay a special assessment in the amount of $6,000. Anyanwu was also stripped of his U.S. citizenship.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Fraud Detection and National Security Unit, and U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service also assisted in the case.
Assistant United States Attorney Susan Coppedge, Special Assistant United States Attorney Njeri Maldonado and Intern Annalise Lisson prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.